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  • 22 May 2014 15:38

The aging population technology challenges

The shifts in resourcing required to support the world’s expanding, ageing population will be increasingly driven by technology innovation. A recent report from Productivity Commission forecast that by 2060, 58 per cent of the population will be in their 50s or older, while Australians aged 65 and over will account for one quarter of the population. Recent U.S. Census data shows that more than 13 percent of the population, or 41.4 million people, is currently over 65 years old. By 2060, that percentage will climb to almost 20 percent.

Technology is a key conduit in facilitating health and social services for this key demographic yet there are a few key hurdles to address despite the innovation, platforms and market all being in place. A few prime disconnects between seniors and technology remain including accessibility, affordability and education.

The ubiquity of digital television, particularly in the older demographic makes IPTV services that are geared towards this sector most appealing. Telemedicine, which now canvasses a wide swathe of technology applications courtesy of high speed broadband networks and interactive television, is bridging the gap to solve the accessibility and affordability gap. Australia’s National Broadband has predicated much of its early trials on  telemedicine applications where physicians can directly assess patients and measure blood pressure, gait, and cognitive status- via a TV or computer screen.

The CSIRO has also been working on two projects funded by the Australian Government's Telehealth Pilots Program, a home monitoring of chronic disease for aged care and an indigenous Tele-Eye care pilot.

The A$5.47M trial high speed broadband home monitoring for aged care project has been showcasing how to deploy, operate and evaluate a broadband-enabled telehealth system for home monitoring of patients with chronic disease.
These initiatives are crucial in terms of demystifying  technology use for the older population. While broadband adoption and education for seniors in technology use is becoming more widespread, it takes hands on experience in the community to gain traction on bolder ehealth innovation.

A recent report from the National Academy of Engineering on “Aging of the Population” also points out that there is little known about the efficacy of design aids and support tools for older adults. “We also need more information on the best way to train older adults to use new technologies, and there are many unanswered questions about the best designs of online training programs and multimedia formats,” it notes.

Other critical areas for research include issues of privacy and trust in technology and how access to Internet information impacts health care behaviour.

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